Honey: A sweet alternative for cough syrup?

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Here’s sweet news for kids that can’t swallow the syrup: honey may be an effective substitute for soothing nighttime coughing in young children.  Single doses of three different types of honey reduced coughing frequency in children ages 1-5 years old in a recent study. Many over-the-counter treatments for coughing may be unsafe for young children so this natural remedy may provide a promising alternative.

Researchers from Israel compared three different types of honey with doses of date extract for reducing nocturnal coughing. The children took one of the treatments 30 minutes before bedtime and parents recorded their coughing frequency the next day. The three types of honey—citrus, labiatae, and eucalyptus —were all significantly more effective in reducing coughing than date extract. Eucalyptus honey had the highest rate of coughing reduction among the three.

It’s still unclear what characteristic makes honey so soothing but researchers pointed out that it has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. They also noted that there is close anatomical relationship between the sensory nerve fibers involved in coughing and the gustatory nerve fibers involved in tasting sweetness.

Photo by dphiffer via Creative Commons


Cohen H, et al. “Effect of honey on nocturnal cough and sleep quality: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.” Pediatr 2012; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-3075.

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